Friday, October 26, 2007

Real Caregiving

Did you hear the NPR story about the residents from an LA area nursing home that were evacuated to the Qualcomm Stadium? (Read a related story.)

The NPR reporter, who observed the care given to the residents by staff during an afternoon, shared a story about individuals who provided remarkable care for the residents, even during the most trying of circumstances.

While residents tried to rest in uncomfortable army cots, staff sang “Take me Out to the Ballgame” with them, and joked about coming to Qualcomm Stadium for this, instead of a ballgame.

When a resident’s “diapers” (the reporter’s words) needed to be changed, the staff would hold up blankets in a circle around the person, allowing him/her privacy in a very non-private situation.

I smiled as I listened to this story, thinking, “Here are folks who really get it – who understand that caring for elders is not simply making sure the right medicines are given at the right time, and that the body is well cared for.”

Caring – the right way – for seniors means using creativity and knowing that whatever the circumstances, caring for the PERSON is the most important part of the job.

That’s why when we’re training new caregivers we need to start with the basics: not bathing, dressing and grooming, but rather WHY we do what we do, and how to preserve the person’s dignity, privacy and promote independence in every single aspect of care we provide.

Those are the kinds of caregivers that I want caring for my mother – and ultimately, for me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Round the world view

Yesterday was my first day back in the office following three weeks on the other side of the globe.

What an experience it was, to see first hand how people live in Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. The cultural differences couldn’t be more dramatic, especially between the remote islands of Indonesia (we spent 10 days on a small island group 600 miles east of Bali), the bustle of Singapore and the quiet beauty of South Australia.

We saw families transporting cows on the cabin roof of their small boat, visited a family’s home on stilts, carefully walking on the floor joists so we wouldn’t crash through the grass mats covering the floor, and stayed on a winery in picturesque McLaren Vale.

In one of the most remote villages we visited, age 50 looked ancient and the average life expectancy was very short.

In Singapore the government has recently decided to allow people a third day off each week, in addition to the weekend, in the hopes that they will procreate more freely and help offset the aging population. There, with the third oldest population in the world, the health and social needs of an aging population are at near crisis. With too few young workers, migrant laborers, mainly from India, are imported to provide the needed labor, raising cultural and social challenges of their own.

It’s always interesting to see how the rest of the world lives, and how they tackle some of the very problems we’ll soon be facing here.

On the other hand, it’s always good to be back home, too.